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Welcome to the 2013 Livies. Along with TG4, these are the most eagerly anticipated Irish Traditional Music Awards of the year. The reason? LiveIreland's unprecedented and instantaneous worldwide reach in its readership. When any site like LiveIreland is the 900 pound gorilla in the room, it's paid attention to. It is our honor to recognize the Best of the Best with the 2013 Livies. This year we have included a picture of each artist and a cut from them that we particularly enjoy. So, you can enjoy! Here we go:
Male Vocalist of the Year - Seamus Begley
Seamus is a busy boy and an Irish national treasure. His current album is with musician, Jim Murray. It is called Eiri Go La. Seamus has been a presence on the scene for years, and this man from Dingle Peninsula is as popular in the States as he is in Ireland. He was a major factor in the greatest Irish album we have ever heard, Beal Tuinne. To most people, including us, he exemplifies the perfect, traditional Irish tenor. As we said, a treasure of a talent who could win this Award every year. If you would hear Ireland, listen to Seamus.
Male Musician of the Year – Kevin Crawford
Many trad fans say that Lunasa’s flute player, Kevin Crawford, is the best in the tradition. You would be hard put to find anyone who would disagree with that. He, too, has been a force in the music since his days with the iconic, Moving Cloud. One of the most prolific of all Irish flute players, everything he touches turns to aural gold. A master. We are lucky to have him. You can hear him in his most recent outing with his solo album, Carrying the Tune. He could and should win this for every album he has ever been on.
Instrumental Album of the Year – The Coast Road
This gem was released by the wonderful Karen Ryan as a solo project. She is normally found in her brilliant work with The London Lasses. With apologies to Pete Quinn, the London Lasses are the best female group in the business, and Karen Ryan is one of the absolute top fiddlers in the business. She helps run a great festival every year, Return to Camden Town. This album could serve as a “how to” lesson of instruction to play the Irish fiddle perfectly. This woman is the deal. Stunning. Wow!!
Female Vocalist of the Year - Norah Rendell
Norah Rendell won last year’s Award for her work with The Outside Track. This year, she again came to the fore as we heard for the first time one of her past albums, Wait There Pretty One. She recorded it with her husband Brian Miller, of Bua. It seems as if everyone is following Outside Track and joining the parade in salute to that band. This album is a lesser-known treat of massive proportions. It is pretty rare that any artist wins any Award two years in a row. That is reserved for only the best, and no one right now is better than Norah in the tradition. Rock on, girl!
New Group of the Year– We Banjo 3
We Banjo 3 will sweep the boards in 2013 as the hottest thing in the tradition. Get on board early, as they are a stunning example of current brilliance in trad. The addition of Fegal Scahill to the group, along with his brother, Enda, plus Martin and David Howey means that they will continue to reach across all tastes in Irish music. Every few years there is a massive explosion of a new group on to the scene. Get ready and put on your sunglasses. This one is occurring right now. Fantastic stuff from young, master musicians.
Song of the Year – Len Graham/The False Knight
Len Graham has won just about every major award in Irish music, and rightly so. The beauty of his voice and his contribution to Irish music is impossible to describe. He is THE master of Irish singing and one of the great gentlemen in the tradition. His brand new album is I’ll Sing You a Story, a collection of children’s songs. Except, when Len sings them, they are not children’s songs at all. Over his many years in the business and recording hundreds of songs, we have never put him put a foot wrong, or sing an ungracious note. He is the master. Simple. Impossible to describe. The closest we can come is to simply say that he is the best, and this song is the current one we like best. He and Seamus Begley could exchange their Awards this year in a heartbeat.
Female Musician of the Year- Michelle Mulcahy
This year’s solo effort, Suaimhneas, confirms this young woman’s status as one of the top two or three harpists in Irish music. According to our count, she plays 457 instruments, and all of them brilliantly. Where she shines the most is on the harp and this album proves it. To be this good and this young is something she has earned and carries with graceful ease. All credit to her family and musical partners, father Mick Mulcahy and sister Louise. Never think you know what the Irish harp sounds like without listening to one of the greats, Michelle Mulcahy. Well done. Well done, indeed. Brill. Fab.
Vocal/Instrumental Group of the Year – Hanz Araki/Kathryn Claire
Hanz contested for Male Vocalist of the Year in addition to his masterful flute playing. Kathryn Claire is a wondrous singer and outstanding fiddle player. Based on America’s west coast, Hanz has both Irish and Japanese blood flowing through his veins. He comes from a musical family and has brought a new dimension to Irish flute playing. We’re not sure which we like better, his singing or his musicianship on the wooden flute. Kathryn is the perfect partner in this duo. She equally shares a beautiful voice, which matches her fiddle playing perfectly. They are two extraordinarily gifted talents who should enjoy a long run in Irish music. Couple this with the fact that they released four – you read that correctly, FOUR -- brilliant traditional albums in one year, and this Award is the easiest to decide of all, this year.The four albums which we have written about extensively here, include currently the most popular, A Winter Solstice. There is also Songs of Love and Murder (we love the title!). Then there’s something with more spring in the air, As I Roved Out. And then there is the brilliant album, The Emigrant’s Song/Laborer’s Lament. It has taken us months to digest all of this music and proclaim it what it is. A stunning bit of perfection and an unprecedented accomplishment in Irish music. We are overwhelmed by their talent and their creativity.
Concert of the Year –We Banjo 3 – IrishFest Milwaukee
We saw so many performances this year that we found ourselves debating, how to choose, since they were all fantastic Let’s consider the most impactful—that would be We Banjo 3’s run at IrishFest in Milwaukee. IrishFest has a mini preview night on Thursday evening before their annual August weekend begins. We Banjo 3 performed at that Thursday night event and the word went out on the jungle drums. Holy mackerel, you’ve gotta see this! Not yet familiar with this brand new group, IrishFest had scheduled them in what everyone calls the “pub tent”-a lovely little venue on the end of the grounds that seats about 100 people comfortably. By Friday night, the crowd was standing 2-3 deep, to catch the lads. On Saturday and Sunday, the crowds were standing 6-7 deep with even more turning away because they couldn’t get close enough to even hear. We were supposed to introduce them, but got there a half hour early and already it was so packed that we could not get through the crowd to the stage! From what we can see, essentially every concert of theirs since has been sold out. This group, like other iconic ensembles before them, seems to bridge the gap from the pure Irish traditionalist, to the more modern lover of the sound. Outstanding vocals from David Howey round out the picture that he, Enda Scahill, Martin Howey, and Fegal Scahill all create. That’s right. Two sets of brothers in perfect musical harmony. In all our years, we have never seen a stunning opening like this by a traditional group. The current talk of the business, and rightly so.
Thunder on the Horizon Award – Louise Killeen --The Brilliant Tease
This Irish star from County Offaly is not a newcomer to the music, but thanks to promotion from the likes of Copperplate in London, she is quickly becoming known to a much larger audience. She is not traditional, but is deeply Irish in her approach to the music. She is a sensational singer and lyricist. We are lucky to have her. Venues in America are beginning to wake up and you can look for her to be featured at some festivals in 2013. We love this album and as Copperplate commented in a PR release for the album, “Brilliant tease is just the tonic for bored ears.” Indeed. Magic.
Event of the Year –Johnny Henry CD Release Party/ One Out of the Fort
We hope we are not being too provincial by saying that Chicago hosted one of the best events of its type, ever. Bogfire Productions released brilliant Johnny Henry’s CD, One Out of the Fort. Johnny passed away in the late‘90’s and this is a compilation gathered from many sources that highlights the essence of what it is to be a real Sligo fiddle player. Johnny’s brother is the iconic, Kevin Henry, one of the great flute and pipe players plus a real shanachie of all time. These brothers were part of a musical family that continues to resound in the music. The CD release party was held at Chief O’Neill’s in Chicago. The place was packed as musicians came from everywhere to play in a mega-session designed to honor Johnny, Kevin, Bogfire, and the tradition itself. It was magic. It is easy to say you had to be there, but you had to be there. An unforgettable night of fun, love, and respect. Bogfire released Kevin’s only album, the internationally loved. One’s Own Place. Now Bogfire adds this. Thanks to Bogfire and the Henry family for all of this.
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